Jahlil Okafor, Markelle Fultz miss Sixers' trip to Boston

Jahlil Okafor, Markelle Fultz miss Sixers' trip to Boston

BOSTON — Jahlil Okafor was one of the players who did not travel with the Sixers to Boston. Unlike Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz and T.J. McConnell, the reason was not related to injuries or rest.

Okafor is out of the rotation. Rather than sit on the bench in TD Garden, Okafor could use the time on the practice court in Camden, New Jersey. He stayed back Thursday during the one-game road trip for individualized training.

“[We are] trying to get him in a place that we can do whatever we can do to help him move forward, to move his career forward,” Brett Brown said. “If it’s not going to be in Philly, to make sure that we create an environment that he knows he’s cared for, that we are doing everything we can to keep his body right and his mind right and his fitness up.” 

Okafor has played a total of 25 minutes over two games this season, his third in the league. He made it known after the Sixers did not pick up his contract option that he would like to be bought out or traded. Neither scenario has been reached in the month since then. 

It seems likely the Sixers will make a deal before the deadline as they look to get something in return for the former No. 3 overall pick. Brown wants Okafor to be prepared to play in that case. 

“At any point, somebody could tell him he’s traded,” Brown said. “He’ll be on a plane and he’s going to roll into a city and expect to be able to perform. When that moment, if that moment happens, we want to do everything we can to help him.”

It has yet to be determined if the Sixers will implement the same approach for their next road trip, starting Dec. 9 in Cleveland. Okafor also was inactive for the Sixers’ home game on Wednesday while Nik Stauskas (ankle) was taken off the inactive list and cleared to play. 

Fultz in Kentucky
Brown reiterated the Sixers are not pushing Fultz, who is dealing with right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance, back on the court. 

Fultz is in Kentucky receiving physical therapy on his shoulder with Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic. The Sixers announced on Nov. 19 Fultz would be reevaluated in “approximately two to three weeks,” which hasn’t happened yet.

“I think the defining moment is probably going to end up being, we’re going to look at his shot,” Brown said. “He’s going to go to the free throw line and we’re all going to say, does it pass the eye test? 

“He’s not there yet. He’s just not there yet. Everything is moving forward, but it’s not anything that we’re going to rush. There needs to be a tremendous confidence level that he has and a health-related confidence that our medical people have. As far as a timeline of what that all means, we don’t know. But I can tell you his heart is in the right place. His work ethic is great.” 

Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Raptors' win streak

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Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Raptors' win streak

TORONTO — Russell Westbrook had 37 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds for his fifth straight triple-double, Steven Adams scored 25 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Raptors 132-125 on Sunday, snapping Toronto's winning streak at 11.

Paul George scored 22 points and Carmelo Anthony had 15 as the Thunder extended their winning streak to six. Corey Brewer scored 10 points for Oklahoma City.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and Kyle Lowry fouled out with 22 points and 10 assists as the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors suffered just their sixth home loss of the season. Toronto is 29-6 at Air Canada Centre, the best home record in the NBA.

DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and Raptors coach Dwane Casey were all ejected in the final minute for complaining to the officials. DeRozan was incensed after not getting a call on his drive with 30 seconds left, and picked up two technicals in the following 22 seconds (see full recap).

Davis leads Pelicans past Celtics
NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the banged-up Boston Celtics 108-89 on Sunday night.

Second-year pro Cheick Diallo had a season-high 17 points and Nikola Mirotic added 16 for New Orleans, which was desperate to win after dropping four of its previous five while in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Davis capped his night by hitting a baseline fallaway as he was fouled by Abdel Nader to make it 106-85 with 3:35 to go. The shot brought the crowd to its feet as Davis stumbled toward the sideline, where he exchanged high-fives with several fans before walking to the foul line to hit his foul shot.

The play capped a 22-6, fourth-quarter run to blow open what had been a tight game for most of the first three quarters (see full recap).

Harden scores 34 as Rockets hold off Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets' 26th win in 28 games.

The West's top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.

Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each had 16 points for the Rockets.

Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 23 points, Andrew Wiggins had 21, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford each added 20 (see full recap).

Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

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Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal scored 19 points, Marcin Gortat had 18 and the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night in a possible playoff preview.

Washington (40-30) earned its second straight win to move into a tie with Indiana for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards also claimed the first tiebreaker by taking two of three in the season series.

Gortat was 6 for 8 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. He scored a total of 17 points in his previous four games.

Washington went 10 for 20 from 3-point range and shot 54.8 percent from the field overall. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had 16 points for the Wizards, and Markieff Morris added 15 (see full recap).

Giannis' double-double helps Bucks hold on to beat Hawks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 23 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held on for a 122-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

The Bucks finished off the Eastern Conference's worst team with a game-ending 11-5 run, pushing the pace after the Hawks lost ball-handler Dennis Schroder. The guard fouled out with 2:46 left, and was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline.

Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot, allowing the Bucks to brush past them.

Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year. Taurean Prince scored 38 points, while Schroder finished with 18 (see full recap).

LeBron gets 33 points in triple-double as Cavs beat Bulls
CHICAGO — LeBron James scored 33 points as part of a triple-double, Jordan Clarkson had a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:27 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 114-109 on Saturday night.

James had 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his 15th triple-double of the season, and Jeff Green added 21 points. Clarkson finished with 19 points to help the Cavaliers salvage a six-game split on their season-high six-game trip.

Denzel Valentine led Chicago with a career-high 34 points, hitting 8 of 11 from long range. The Bulls wiped out a 17-point halftime deficit even though they held out banged-up core players Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, only to come up short in the closing minutes.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue spent the second half in the locker room with an illness, another hit for an already short-handed team (see full recap).